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Archive for October, 2008

Audio podcast version: Mr Justice X (2): In the Matter of: Criminals on probation committed 120 murders in two years

1. The Telegraph reports that “between April 2006 and April this year, offenders serving community sentences and suspended sentences were convicted of a total of 121 murders. There were a total of 1,004 serious crimes committed by offenders being supervised by the Probation Service, including 22 attempted murders, 103 rapes and 682 other serious violent or sexual offences. Another 374 alleged offences committed by criminals in the community have yet to come to trial.”

2. It would appear, from Ministry of Justice figures, that there has been a rise in the number of offenders being spared jail and given community-based sentences instead.

3. It has been some years, of course, since I sat as a judge but it seems to me that the present Justice Secretary and Lord Chancellor, who isn’t a lord because of Charlie Falconer’s jiggery pokery with the Constitution some years ago, has got a fair amount of work on his hands.  Fortunately, for the Justice Secretary, The Sun and other newspapers of appeal to the majority of English readers in this country, are more concerned with what Jonathan Ross and Willy Brand are up to, but it won’t be long before their attention is engaged by these remarkable figures and readers, as they eat their full English breakfasts in the cafes of our beautiful island, will be able to rant about prison, transportation, hanging, PCSOs, congestion charging, traffic wardens and anything else that comes into their heads at the time – possibly punctuated with appropriate words derived from Anglo-Saxon.

Old habits die hard… but I think it is time to depart from the strictures of the English judgment writing style and break out…..

It is a pleasure to be invited to be a columnist on this blog and I shall take advantage of the invitation, freed as I am from the need to sit in judgement, freed from the need to insert unusual bits of Da Vinci style code into my judgments to keep up with Mr Justice Peter Smith and his magnificent black moustache worthy of a Victorian beadle, and enjoy what is happening in the legal world.

I haven’t worked out quite how I am going to play this. Charon simply asked me to keep to the rules of late night blogging and hit the juice while I blogged.  This, I am finding remarkably easy to do – and the convenience of an Oddbins, but 45 yards from my present lodgings will, no doubt, assist.

I keep my hand in by reading the usual stuff and I note today that LawandMore have a list of ten legal blogs and Charon’s blog is on it.  I also noted the rather unusual editorial reference, a salutation to Charon from the Editor.. and I quote: ” Charon, we salute you and sorry for setting your chest hair on fire.”

Charon explained that he had been to a lunch at the LawandMore offices earlier in the year – and had enjoyed the experience immensely.  He declined to comment as to how his chest hair came to be set alight… he merely muttered res ipsa loquitur as he left to buy a bottle at the bar.

I hope to be able to write once a week or so,  provided the Grim Reaper does not get tooled up with a new Googlephone (as Geeklawyer seems to have done) and finds out where I am.  I have taken the precaution of not taking foreign holidays so I do not need one of these new passports with antennae built allowing the government to track my whereabouts at all times.  I shall be back, hopefully at the weekend.  Do call me Henry – it is the name I am now using.

Have a good one….

***

Audio podcast version: Mr Justice X (2): In the Matter of: Criminals on probation committed 120 murders in two years


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Audio Podcast: Mr Justice X (1) – The Beginning

Allow me to introduce you to Mr Justice X.  He has retired, of course – but he is still thinking, still watching and still has JUDGMENT.

I met Mr Justice X some time ago in the most curious circumstances.  I happened to be having a drink down at El Vino’s in Fleet Street, sitting at the back.  The “Ties Mandatory” rule had gone, and ladies, of course, had been allowed through the hallowed portal.  As it happens, I was wearing a tie…  a drinking society tie… rather exclusive.  I was reading The Times Law section, naturally, when they did a proper law section on Tuesdays.

“Anyone sitting there?”  I heard this deep sonorous voice.  The voice appeared to come from above.  I turned to find the craggy features of a gentleman wearing a pinstripe suit, stiff collar, silk tie.  His black Church’s brogues were over thirty years old but were highly polished.  He had a white handerchief folded in his top pocket.  A distinguished gentleman.

“No… please do sit down”  I replied.

“What are you drinking?” the gentleman asked.

“A Rioja.”

“What?”

“A Rioja.”

“Good grief… Bourbon wine… very well.”

He got up, walked over to the bar and returned with a bottle of Rioja and two glasses.  I was both delighted and baffled when he poured both glasses.  I enjoy a drink, but I tend not to set one up in advance as a spare.

The gentleman pushed the glass towards me…  “To the King of bloody Spain!” and drained half the glass.  It was then I realised that the second glass was for me.  I picked my glass up, made a circular motion with the glass, and said “To the King across the water… Jacobus.”

The gentleman laughed “You’re a Scot.  Don’t sound like one.  Sound like a bloody news reader… are you a news reader?”

“No, I am not a news reader… I am a blogger… Charon QC.”

“You are a QC?”

“No.. I’m a blogger.  I gave myself silk when The Lord Chancellor stopped dishing them out a few years ago.”

“Excellent… good idea.” the gentleman said, laughing and draining the remainder of the wine from his glass.  “Drink up… we have much to talk about and, I notice from your tie, that you are a Toper.”  With that my drinking companion, as I now viewed him, poured the rest of the bottle into my glass and then his.

“I was a judge many years ago… Henry is the name I use now.  High Court.  Too stupid and too difficult and too often appealed to get any further.  I keep up of course by reading the odd bit of gossip… been looking at all this talk of wigs and gowns… ridiculous, really…. but as my old friend Lord Donaldson said years ago… ” I cannot see the point now of discarding something which has been out of date for at least a century.”

And that is how I met Mr Justice X  … Henry, as he likes to be known, is going to be an occasional columnist.  I have absolutely no idea what he is going to write about.  He promises to write only after a few glasses but may shoehorn in a bit of law. A kindred spirit.

Audio Podcast: Mr Justice X (1) – The Beginning

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Restaurant Review: Kensington Place

Some time ago , at the invitation of an editor at LawandMore I went to Kensington Place – a good restaurant in Notting Hill (area).  Fun evening.  I wrote a review.  Here it is.

A small quote: ” On my first visit, I was greeted by a charming lady who smiled. I was taken to my table by the window and was then greeted by Letitia – a waitress – who also smiled.  Smiling is good in the service sector provided it is natural – and these were natural, relaxed and welcoming smiles.  I asked for a glass of house red.”

(I made two visits – second even more incognito than first)

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30th October: Daily Legal news and podcast

Daily Legal News and podcast up on Insitelaw

Delighted to see a small rise in listening figures for my daily news podcasts.  They last for about 5-6 minutes, cover all the main legal and business stories and I usually end up going over to The Sun to see what is happening in the parallel universe covered by that great British institution… Some days I speak like a BBC news reader… I am working on a Channel 4 style…. and if figures rise I may be encouraged to go off piste and start phoning people to see if they would like to go drinking with me.   I shall leave requests to sleep with their daughters or grand daughters to the professionals.

I was a bit late this morning – simply because I had to do something else – but normally the news and podcast is done by 7.00 am or, at the latest, by 9.00 am.

1.  Stlll time to collect one free hour of CPD from The CPD Channel… see Insitelaw right hand column for details (scroll down)

2.  There is a lot of really very good analysis in the UK law and financial blogs – much of it superior to the commercial stuff produced by the more traditional media.  I am concentrating more and more attention on UK, US and International blogs in my daily updates on Insitelaw and starting to include blogs in my daily news podcast.  Have a look – it really is very good the analysis by UK and other bloggers

3. GOOD NEWS: Australia getting stuffed by India in the cricket. Love Aussies as I do, I still can’t help smiling at a score line: Third Test, Delhi: India 613-7d v Australia 50-0 (day two, stumps)  Ashes next year? England could be in a goood position under KP… we shall see…

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Brand resigns… Ross apologises…. but hey….

The Telegraph reports 10.49 GMT 29th October: “Ross has 18 months to run of his three year £18 million contract which is the most expensive in the history of the BBC. All his shows for the BBC are made by his own production company, Hot Sauce. The contract includes a clause which gives the BBC the right to terminate the agreement, at short notice, if the corporation is brought into disrepute by his actions. Even though Mark Thompson, the director-general, has accused Ross of a “gross lapse in taste”, his lawyers would sue the corporation if he is fired.”

I enjoyed this bit in the Telegraph story… ” The BBC is anxious to avoid an expensive and damaging legal row with Ross who Mark Thompson regards as “genuine talent”.

Meanwhile… the Visigoths are at the gates of Rome and  are out in force having fun, as usual, on Guido Fawkes’ blog…. Tourettes anyone…?

The Telegraph also reports: “Because of Mr Ross’s suspension, the BBC has decided to pull Friday Night With Jonathan Ross and replace it with the film Speed. However, there are growing calls for the corporation to screen an episode of the classic 1970s comedy series in which Mr Sachs played the role of the blundering Spanish waiter Manuel.”

At least a bit of law shoehorned into the blog tonight… and on that note…. just as well we are not, as a country, going through a major financial crisis, recession and chaos…..

But… there is some serious news… The Independent runs with a story on ID cards:

“Claims that ID cards will help the fight against terrorism have been dismissed as “absolute bunkum” by a senior Government security expert linked to GCHQ. Ministers faced embarrassment after Harvey Mattinson, a senior consultant at the information security arm of the intelligence listening station, spoke out at a technology conference……”

So far as I can gather, there is no indication that Gordon Brown has waded in, as yet, to demand an *investigation* into why a senior government expert is indulging in … to borrow from his outburst in the Ross/Brand fiasco… ““inappropriate and unacceptable behaviour”.

And so… October 29th ended…

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Weird wide world….

It snowed in London and elsewhere – although none on the Boat down on the the Embankment.  Mind you, I got a seat outside the cafe at 7.00 this morning at a cafe – and sat there in splendid isolation drinking espresso, smoking a few fags and reading the newspapers.

Then, of course, the extraordinary story about Jonathan Ross and Brand covered by the BBC and pretty well every media organisation – so I need not dwell on it other than  to say, apart from the astonishing behaviour of these two blokes, for me, the most extraordinary thing was to see a British prime minister, in the midst of the most severe financial crisis since 1929, taking time to wade in demanding investigations.  Brown, clearly, is obsessed by investigations.  Perhaps, thwarted by constitutional law from having Osborne investigated last week, he saw an opportunity to get an investigation here.  Bizarre. Anyway…. apologies have or are being made and Brand has fallen on his sword by resigning from his BBC show, showing resolution not always shared by politicians when things go pear shaped.  Bill Quango MP, a contributor to the Capitalists@Work blog – has a very amusing parody of whole Brown / Ross / Brand fiasco… definitely worth a read.

So… what else happened today?

The US has cut interest rates to 1%, stock exchanges are moving up, Darling is relaxing fiscal rules, BMI is being taken over by Lufthansa, Debbie Purdy has lost her High Court case to clarify the law on assisted suicide and a man has been shot dead by police in London.  Quite a day.  I shall leave comment on these to my alter ego, to write about on Insitelaw.

Tonight, after a long and busy day it is time to turn my mind to less serious matters….

Dan Hull of WhatAboutClients? friend, US attorney, man of letters, zealot for client service and a man with no time for shirkers sent me an email alerting me to a very subtle ‘report” – here it is. Make of it what you will. There is a message… and I am going to sit down later with a bottle of burgundy and decipher the hidden text.

Always amused when blogs pop up on legal journals or via law firms… BarBoy, who is a mature student doing the BVC has a most amusing piece…. What’s in a name” – “At Lawyer 2Be, there is a blog by a BVC student. Looks to me like a piece of thinly veiled product placement by BPP, but I am cynical about these things. In any event, the author is certainly right in comparing BPP to primary school; the materials have pretty pictures and you get talked to as though you are, indeed, 7 years old. All that’s missing are the one-third pint bottles of luke warm milk that Thatcher snatched away. Oh, and a sand pit.”

There are some good student law blogs out there – hopefully most of them are in my blogroll to the right or on the Insitelaw blogs Pageflakes. Barmaid, Law Actually, Barboy, LawGirl, Swiss Tony  are but a few….

An amusing video of a US judge ‘shredding a law student who appeared at The People’s Court.… he got ripped apart by the judge.  Preparation is all and not always a good idea to argue with the judge when your law is bad. .  Hat Tip to LawandMore for the link.

And a quick trip over to RonKnee’s produced as always, a laugh: “I call this an unsocial worker. He comes to me with suggestions as to how I can improve my life. He reckons that I can do myself a favour by stopping the drink. FECK! NO FECKIN’ WAY! Feckin’ Unsocial, if you ask me…”

The unique Ms R “A woman of experience” is away in Australia, where she comes from – but on business.  She has time, however, to report on Man Drought.. I liked this passage: “Of course the term ‘shortage’ is all relevant. After all, how many men is enough? Are we simply referring to members of the male sex who are technically alive? Or are we talking shortage of high quality, top shelf stock? Also should we make an assumption that every woman in the market for a man is only looking for one?”

Time for a bite to eat… no steak pie tonight…. perhaps an omelette with some tomato and a few flakes of chilli to give it a lift?  I may be back and post later…


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Matt Dastardly, managing partner of leading City boutique law firm Muttley Dastardly LLP, is working late in his office in the City. His PA, Eva Braun, has chosen an elegant pair of Charles Jourdan high heeled shoes for the meeting this evening and is, as always, dressed in a well cut black skirt suit.

***

“So… I see from the Lawyer that yet more law firms are re-structuring, declaring redundancies and ditching cost centre oriented associates and partners and that there is the usual journo guff about law firm mergers.?”

Eva Braun looked at her notepad and said briskly “Yeah…. Clarke Willmott Chief executive David Sedgwick said in The Lawyer today“These steps are being taken in direct response to lower demand for legal services being felt by all firms at the moment and we don’t take them lightly.” Apparently they are juicing 40 fee earners and support earners.”

“Usual commercial prop or is it wider?” Muttley asked, his eyes flicking between three computer screens on his desk and the bank of CCTV monitors on the wall to his right.

“Wider.” Eva Braun replied “Although the CEO went on to say ‘The numbers of people affected by this programme represent a very small proportion of the firm, and our priority must be to safeguard the long-term interests of Clarke Willmott.’

Matt Muttley sat back in his chair, laughed and said “Hey… at least the guy understands the need to protect the firm.  How many associates are we saying “Ciao” to this week?”

“Two who didn’t make the cut at last review and one guy you felt was not made of the ‘right stuff’ because he was critical of The Bullingdon Club.”

“Ah… yeah… I listened in on one of his calls to a client…. for training purposes, of course, and heard him say that he thought that the guys in the Osborne Bullingdon Club photo were all tossers.  Well I’m sorry, Eva…. six of the eight senior partners on our special executive board are members, as indeed was I, so….. if we’re not good enough for him… he can bugger off and work elsewhere. I’ve half a mind to trash his room with Dastardly later.”

“Yet another of your good ideas, Matt….. save it for your next trip to Corfu…. we don’t need the publicity”

Muttley laughed, lit a cuban cigar, downed a shot of ice cold Absolut vodka and said “Cameron was a member of the club you know. No idea whether he did the drugs.  He never comments on his  post Eton spliffing days…. but, in any event, The Bullingdon didn’t really approve of cannabis and other happy drugs… interfered with the desire of the chaps to trash restaurants….. so not ‘de rigeur’.”

“So… Matt.. how do you think we are shaping up with the credit-crunch?”

“Good, Eva…. good.  We’re picking up CDS stuff, good quality Lehman fallout, a high level of good quality insolvency work, our banking partners are working their associates into the ground….. and we got out of property and low end private client work some time ago.  Need to build up litigation for a few years… but some good lateral hires coming out of New York… so no problem.”

Matt tapped the keyboard for the computer screen on the right, read intently and said “Eva…. this is is great…. Law Schools are being flooded with bankers… and finance people re-qualifying.  Didn’t Dr Strangelove tell us that law schools could be in trouble in the next few years… doesn’t look like it from this.”

“The crazy Dr did say that and he’s right…. this is just the GDL, Matt… the BVC is a different matter altogether… and there is no way the profession can sustain present levels of recruitment in the short to medium term…. so  young lawyers are going to be flipping burgers again soon.”

“Excellent” Muttley shouted…. “Bloody marvellous….. maybe we should look at setting up a law school  ourselves? Some law schools are raking it in.”

“No, Matt… that is another of your not so good ideas…. I’ve already called several law schools to look at their pricing structures.  They seem a bit high to me….. buyer’s market now…. we pay the piper, so they can play our tune… and our tune is “Birdie, birdie, Cheap cheap.”

“Jesus… Eva… you are right.  We should make you a partner.”

“I am a partner, Matt. I do banking work here and that includes our banking. I know every detail of the finances here, as do you.”

” Eva…. only joking…”

“We understand one another, then…” Eva said with an amused smile

“We do.  Fancy dinner in The City…somewhere exuding style, sophistication and dribblingly delicious concoctions?  See if anyone is jumping tonight?”

“Let’s go.”

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